24 killed in suicide bombing in Peshawar hotel
May 15, 2007 - 6:23:26 PM

Islamabad, May 15 - At least 24 people were killed and more than two dozen injured Tuesday in a suicide bombing at an Afghan-owned hotel in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, news reports said.

The blast ripped through the dining hall of the central Marhaba Hotel as crowds of people gathered for lunch. Most of the casualties were Afghans, witnesses said.

'This was a suicide attack,' Akram Durrani, the chief minister of the restive North-West Frontier Province, told the Aaj television channel. 'Police have found the bomber's two legs.'

The severed limbs carried a written warning that people caught spying for the United States 'will meet the same fate,' he said.

According to hotel staff, the bomber, aged about 60, came to reception asking for food while carrying a sack, the Geo news channel reported. After being told to wait outside, he proceeded to the dining hall and blew himself up.

Police said the device held 4 to 5 kilograms of explosives.

The blast was so powerful it hurled bodies several metres away from the building and killed pedestrians and a passing rickshaw driver on the street.

While news channels put the number of dead at 24 and above, a hospital located close to the hotel said it had received only 21 bodies.

Half a dozen of the 29 people injured were in a critical condition, a hospital administration official said.

Police immediately cordoned off the blast site, which is located near the city's historic 17th-century Mahabad Khan Mosque.

Television footage showed chaotic scenes as the dead and wounded were carried from the building through crowds of security forces and guests.

Security was boosted at all airports in Pakistan as well as in the capital Islamabad after the attack.

President Pervez Musharraf condemned the attack while opposition parties said the military ruler bore responsibility.

Despite heightened security measures in North-West Frontier Province cities, Peshawar has suffered a number of bombings in the past year, some of them suicide attacks.

'However many security arrangements there may be, it is not possible to stop suicide bombings,' Durrani said Tuesday.

Some of the attacks were blamed on militants from Pakistan's nearby tribal areas who are said to be taking revenge for government strikes against them. Others have been blamed on Afghan intelligence agents amid rising tensions between Kabul and Islamabad.

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